An eternal pessimist thinks about climate change and a few other matters

Updated: Feb 8, 2019


Among the challenges presented by the Trump regime is the sheer scope of mendacity, venality, bad policy, bad faith, bamboozlement, willful ignorance, and pure meanness in every sense of that word on display day in and day out. Each day brings fresh outrage. Where is one to begin?

The activities of resistance groups with which I am associated have in recent months focused on the midterm elections, atrocities committed at the border by order of the president and the attorney general, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court, and renewed urgency to protect the Mueller investigation in the wake of the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his temporary replacement by a man whose qualifications are dubious at best.

Our efforts have seen mixed results. They were rewarded in the midterms even though some fine candidates went down to defeat. I trust we have not seen the last of Beto O'Rourke, Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Carolyn Long, among others. Having mentioned O'Rourke, I am compelled to comment on recent buzz about him as a potential presidential candidate in 2020. He is impressive, we need him in public life, and maybe a presidential run will be in order down the road. But Beto O'Rourke has no business running for president in 2020 on the strength of losing a Senate race to Ted Cruz, no matter well he fought the good fight.

Republican Mia Love officially went down in Utah today. Coupled with the Republican debacle in Orange County, the Utah result gives the Democrats at least 234 seats in the next Congress, with I believe three races yet to be decided. Geoffrey Skelley and Julia Wolfe at FiveThirtyEight argue that the Democrats overperformed in the Senate despite losing seats (No, Democrats Didn't Win The Senate. But They Did Better Than It Seems. November ). We can hope this bodes well for 2020 although the vagaries of the electoral college and state demographics may yet be to Trump's advantage.

The Kavanaugh episode was a disaster all around. There was reason enough to oppose Kavanaugh's elevation to the Supreme Court before Christine Blasey Ford came forward. I had a feeling from the start that this would not turn out well no matter how it turned out. In the end Kavanaugh was confirmed and Trump's base was roused. Maybe this was one factor among others that swayed some voters, maybe among the fabled suburban women, to vote for Democratic candidates this time around. How significant it was is a matter of conjecture. For the record I found Ford credible, Kavanaugh near abominable, and still have misgivings about the affair. Democrats on the whole did not acquit themselves well. That Republicans on the whole were worse is scant consolation.

Amid all this came the sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (press release, October 8, 2018). Yes, it has gotten attention, especially with the horrible fires in California, but not enough attention. The takeaway is that we have limited time to take drastic action if we hope to stave off consequences on a scale that is scarcely imaginable.

The president continues to deny that human activity is a factor in climate change. Instead he spews inane blatteration about wanting to have a great climate and raking as a strategy for forest management while promoting fossil fuel dependency that is at the heart of the problem.

We should be treating climate change as if the nation's fate hangs in the balance, because it does. Yet we are still not doing things to address climate change that we should have been doing twenty-five years ago when they would have been easier and cheaper and offered greater promise of success. I am all for pouring resources into the development of wind, solar, and other energy alternatives to fossil fuels, all manner of other energy-efficient technology, and public transportation. But that alone may not be enough.

We cannot count on the gods of technology to bail us out. I fear though that even the good guys in the environmental movement and in political office are too ready to allow us to harbor the illusion that everything will be hunky-dory if we just transition to wind, solar, &c. Nobody wants to suggest to us Americans that we just might, god forbid, have to change our lifestyles in substantive, meaningful ways, with differences that really make a difference. We might even have to do things whose impact on the economy and on our personal lives is not what we want it to be. Every trip we take in an automobile is part of the problem. My flight to Tulsa to spend Christmas with my brother and the family is part of the problem.

Not much else will matter over the long term, and not all that long, unless we act decisively...and, maybe, get lucky.

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David Matthews

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